2015 Habits Project check-in: It’s time to regroup

OH HAY GUYZ. Happy Tuesday! I apologize – well, mostly to myself – for my lack of posts last week. Or maybe you’re all glad because you’re busy and that’s one less blog I made you read, in which case, you’re welcome! It was a crazy busy week, the kind where I actually don’t have any time to write. Not if I also want to sleep, anyway.

PicMonkey CollageHABITS


We’re almost a quarter of the way through this year (gawd!), so it’s time for a long-overdue check-in on my 2015 Habits Project. I haven’t written much about it because really, how many times can you say “don’t worry everyone, I’m still flossing every day!” (update – I am!).

But I’m 3 habits in now so I think it’s high time for an update. I should be writing an update anyway, but I’m really checking in today because there have been some hiccups that have forced me to stop and say “okay, we need to sort this out real quick.” It’s time to regroup.

I kicked off the project in January with my first habit, daily flossing. Again, there’s not much to say about flossing. This was a good choice for the 1st habit because it’s super simple to start and maintain – if you brush your teeth every day, it’s easy enough to add flossing. This habit has been a success.


20150323-202228Then February rolled around, and things got thorny. Not only because, well, it’s February and February tends to be a 28-day mind-numbing crap-a-thon difficult. But I threw a new and more demanding habit into the mix: the daily tidy-up.

This one involves a quick tidy-up of the home every day – originally for at least 10 minutes, then 5, then okay just do 3 quick things to make this place tidier so you can go to bed. The problem is that it’s hard to make that into a habit because there’s no trigger, nothing to consistently make me think “time to clean something!”

Originally, the trigger was my bedtime routine, because that’s when I figured would be the best time to do my tidying up. But I quickly learned that this method wasn’t sustainable, because I couldn’t always do that every night before bed. What if I come home really late? Isn’t it overkill to start a cleaning spree in the midnight hour when you can barely keep your eyes open? Or what about when I’m home during the day so I just do it then – I got my requirement for the day but broke the bedtime pattern so how am I helping create a habit?

I have also noticed that this habit isn’t fixing any real cleaning problems. It might actually be exacerbating them. For example, I might not do any dishes during my 10 minutes because I think “there are a lot of little things I can do, and doing more things feels better than just doing one thing,” or “I’ll save them for this weekend when I can do them all at once and get it DONE.”

Does anyone else do this? You put off little things because you just sort of assume that they will get done later? But because you keep doing this, later never actually comes until all of a sudden you have a big ol’ stinky pile of dishes on your counter? I often fall into the trap of prioritizing quick little cosmetic things because the results are more immediately apparent (instant gratification for the win!) and it’s somehow “better” if I can do more things in my 10 minutes.


20150323-193921.jpgI’m not even one month in to my March habit, daily reading, so it seems a little premature to start picking it apart already. But I am already noticing similar problems to my tidying up habit: the lack of a trigger is making it difficult to make this habitual, and I don’t feel like I’m reading books any faster than I did before.

The guideline for March is to read at least 5 pages a day. I can certainly read more than that if I want, and I often do, because as everyone knows it’s hard to just stop reading in the middle of a good book. Like how you can’t just eat one potato chip. I thought this was how it would be every day but many times I did only read the 5 pages required.

And, to my dismay, I’m not really progressing through books any faster. I had to have my latest book read by Tuesday, March 17, when my book club was meeting. I thought since I started this book at the end of February and would be reading every day in March, I would have it done in record time. And yet, Sunday March 15 rolls around and like always, I have to do the bulk of the reading at the last minute, despite coming off a 4 day weekend with loads of free time. What gives? (PS my book club is full of overachievers who always have the book done like 2 weeks in advance. Who are these people, and why are they so much better at time management than me?!? I demand answers!)

So, just like with my tidying up habit, I’m running into this conundrum where I’m doing more of these things and yet, not much more is actually getting done.


Regrouping, With Love

I started wondering why I even bothered with this project and if I could just quietly quit without anyone noticing; after all, I haven’t talked about this in months anyway. But it was in these dark hours on the brink of giving up that a nugget of wisdom was born (isn’t this where they’re always born?).

Making and keeping habits is about more than just picking a behavior and making sure to repeat it every day. Some habits are simpler than others, but with all habits that you are consciously choosing to create, there needs to be something more.

If I want to make something part of my normal, I need to change not just my behavior, but my heart. In other words – I can’t become a tidier person simply by doing more cleaning. I have to  value a tidy home. I can’t rely on just the act of reading; reading must be important to me, I must foster a love and admiration of reading.

And I have to ask myself what the ultimate goal is beyond just getting through more pages. Why did I choose this habit? Because I want to make reading a way of life again. I love reading. I love the escape, I love new horizons and being in someone else’s life for a while. And I miss it. When I’m bored or need to kill time, I want my natural instinct to be picking up a book instead of turning on the TV, or instead of zoning out on the bus.

Why did I choose my tidying up habit? Because I’m a homebody who knows that a good outer space makes you feel good inside, who loves and values a clean home. I wanted to make it easier to maintain a peaceful space at home even when life gets busy. And because having to spend an entire Sunday doing the all the cleaning you keep putting off sucks.

And I think all of this gives me a good clue for where to start. Hell, it doesn’t even give me a clue it pretty much just spells it out for me.


Next Steps

READING: I will try to narrow my focus to three “trigger” areas: bedtime, bus time, and evenings/weekends when I feel the urge to turn on the TV. I will aim to do my reading during these times so I can work on turning each of them into triggers. I may read at other times too – in addition to these times, not in place of them.

CLEANING: I’ll focus on bad things – the areas of my home that need work – and use their messiness as my trigger. This includes: piles of junk mail, DISHES, our overflowing trash/recycle bins, and clothing on the bedroom and bathroom floor (oh don’t judge me. Like you’ve never gotten a little too lax in any of these areas). I will make sure that my daily cleaning includes one of these tasks. I can still do other tidying in addition to these things, or on days when none of these things need attention (ha!), but since those additional tasks already come easily to me they will be 2nd on the priority list.

I will make charts for each month and check things off as I do them each day. I’ve found that the act of checking things off a list serves as a trigger/motivation in itself. During times when my schedule is erratic and I’m not feeling as structured, a visual reminder that I can check this off a list will be a good trigger. It also helps remind me of all the things I need to do each day.

I will remember that I can use the project itself and the other habits as triggers for a problem habit. For example, when I floss my teeth or clean up every night, it will remind me of the habits project and the fact that I have other habits to be mindful of.

I will remember love. Successful habits start with heart: I have to love, respect, and value a clean house, healthy gums, and being a voracious reader, writer, and meditate-r (Spell Check is telling me “meditate-r” isn’t a word, but it totally should be). Just as I have to make sure I’m doing the work every day, I have to cultivate my love of the values I’m basing my habits on.



And now that I think about it, I am seeing some progress. Like the signs of Spring that are shyly popping up around us, my living room is, on average, tidier now than it was before February. And the dish piles, while still sometimes unruly, have been getting a little bit smaller. Change is happening, I just have to accept that it’s happening very slowly. Perhaps being patient about results is my invisible, year-long “13th habit.” 🙂

Well guys, it’s getting late, so instead of looking ahead to the next few months I’ll let you see for yourself what I have coming up and promise to check in more frequently than once every 90 days. 🙂


Which daily habits do you struggle with?

What is one “little” thing you’d like to get better at?






20 thoughts on “2015 Habits Project check-in: It’s time to regroup

  1. I have the exact same issue with cleaning… I will put it off until the weekend when I’ll have more time but by Thursday or Friday the laundry is piled up and the house is a disaster.. I do the dishes and clean the kitchen every night but I need to make an effort to do a little more cleaning each day!

  2. I hadn’t realized it before when you’d talked about the habits project in a post, but I realized today that I did something similar years ago. After having a rough year or so, I realized one day that there were a lot of things about my daily habits that I didn’t like. Flossing and tidying up were on that list, among others. I made a concerted effort to improve them, and I started with making a calendar/chart in excel where each day had printed on it a little to do list. It started small and I slowly added to it as I got better about the routine. Having the list to cross off was helpful, because that way I could do one or two things at a time and then take a look at the list before bed to see if anything was left. Obviously there were days when things didn’t get done. That’s ok, it was about the bigger trend. I’ve long since given up on the list, because these things have truly become habits.

    Here’s what I did for daily tidying, which I limited to very specific tasks that I felt like made a big improvement:
    making the bed,
    de-cluttering (for me this was mostly piles of clothes on the floor, but I would do a quick sweep and look for other objects out of place),
    dealing with the mail (an odd confession, I didn’t have a car at the time and would order all kinds of things from Amazon, so my mail was mostly Amazon-related, regardless, I would separate out obvious junk from stuff, recycle that and had a file folder for things that needed responses. I dealt with that on the weekend),
    wiping the crumbs/spills off the kitchen counter,
    sweeping the kitchen floor (just a quick pass-over to get the big stuff),
    not letting a dish sit dirty for more than 24 hours

    The nice thing about all those is that in general they help make weekend cleaning faster. If the counter has no obvious spills or crumbs on it, cleaning it goes very quickly. Same for the floor. The kitchen tasks are small enough that you can do them while waiting for water to boil or something to heat up, which helps make it less daunting, and eventually I got in the habit of not just standing and waiting while in the kitchen, but instead trying to do something towards my list.

    Whoa, I just realized how long this comment is. Ooops! Clearly this post hit home for me!

    1. That’s awesome! We must be soul mates…SOLE mates? hehe…or something!

      These are GREAT tips, thanks!!!

  3. I would like to get better at maintaining a calendar. I really feel like I should revert back to a paper and pencil calendar rather than use my phone (which has bean an EPIC fail). It sounds like a small thing, but with a family of 5, it is HUGE.
    I recently made gains in locating my keys. I have started clipping them to the strap of my purse after getting out of the car. You wouldn’t believe how much time this saves when you don’t have to empty out the contents of your purse to find your keys (and then realize that they are in your pocket!)
    I wish I could put off laundry, but it is a daily task here…(However, the folding of said laundry is often put off!!)

    1. The one thing I do right is that I always fold my laundry and put it away ASAP. One of my GOOD habits I’ve developed!

      We have a dry-erase month calendar in our kitchen that we use and it’s been working great for us. It’s always there in front of me, unlike a day planner that is only useful if I remember to dig it out whenever I need it. Although, the boxes on a dry erase calendar are small – might be hard to fit 5 people’s schedules in there!

  4. I was inspired by you to start improving some of my day to day habits this year. One that surprisingly has been going well is hitting snooze less often. I was tired of rushing around in the morning and tired of feeling like I was going to miss the bus everyday. An extra 5 minutes really makes a huge difference.

    I’ve also been trying to improve but struggling with is keeping my home tidier. I moved at the end of January from a tiny apartment to a really nice condo and I want to keep it looking really nice. It is so easy to just let laundry pile up or let the dishes accumulate. Since I don’t run on Mondays, I’ve been trying to make it a habit to do a load of laundry and the dishes right when I get home from work. It has been pretty hit or miss though.

    1. Yay! I’m so glad you’ve been inspired! I kind of failed at trying not to hit snooze this month…but to be fair, I haven’t really tried that hard either.

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who struggles with tidiness. Unless you’ve been tidy your whole life, it really is a hard habit to get into for some reason.

  5. Flossing is a great habit and one that I have stuck to for a couple years. Especially now that I am pregnant (and have extra sensitive gums) flossing is more important now than ever. I do so at least once a day. Good for you for sticking to this habit!

    I really like the idea of spending 10-15 minutes a day cleaning up around the house, even if it’s something little. Sometimes I think we get in the mindset that we need a good hour or two to invest in cleaning, when really we don’t. Plus, what’s 10 minutes out of the day? I understand your struggle with this habit though. It’s all about quality vs. quantity.

    A daily habit that I sometimes struggle with is responding to emails. Emails are a part of my job and it’s important that I respond promptly when I receive them. But sometimes, I just don’t feel like typing or writing an email. Therefore I set it aside and watch it get lost in my inbox. Not good. I wish I always felt motivated to respond to emails, but it’s not always the case.

    1. I’m the same way with emails! Which makes me a bit of a hypocrite since I also can’t help getting annoyed when other people are bad at responding to me. I get so many different emails about so many things going on, that I’ve found it’s most helpful to me when someone makes it very clear what the priority is and when they need something done by. It annoys people that they feel they need to spell it out, but it’s really the best way to ensure something gets done because I can’t know something’s due/a priority unless someone tells me!

  6. Congrats on the progress! I’ve been working on the flossing one and got that in check too! As for cleaning, I’m kind of a neat freak, but there are bigger things I’ll put off until the weekend, like cleaning the floors and bathroom. My best “tidy up” time is right after work. My animals are demanding food, so I’m already running around feeding them. So that’s when I put away the dishes drying from the night before, maybe take out the trash when I take the dog out, and pick up the general clutter. As for reading, I always have a book in my purse. Perfect for when I’m stuck waiting somewhere! Good luck!

    1. I like your right after work idea! Just get it done so I can move on! 🙂

  7. I really like this idea! I am pretty bad about flossing and cleaning. Haha. I floss a lot like 2 weeks before I know I’m going to the dentist, and then I stop. It’s really terrible. I assume I’ll fool the dentist, and I never do. I also don’t prioritize cleaning at all, so the place ends up a mess and then it takes forever to tidy up. I really need to make that a regular habit.

    1. Yeah, I can never fool the dentist either! Haha!

      I think some people are just naturally tidier than others, and for those of us who aren’t, picking up the habit requires a lot more work. My mom was one of the tidiest, neatest people I know and yet, somehow I grew up with her and turned out the complete opposite, LOL

  8. I hate doing dishes. I know I should make a habit of “no dishes in the sink before bed” BUT if the dishwasher is CLEAN but full, I have to empty it first to put the dirty dishes in and I just can’t be bothered to do both haha.

    I did start flossing and using mouthwash this year though. It makes me feel super clean!

    1. Dishes are the worst! I’m so terrible about dishes, because it feels like it takes so much more effort than the other smaller tasks so I just do those instead. But there’s nothing worse than trying to wash a dish that’s been sitting for more than a day, ugh!

  9. I usually put most things off until the weekend and then feel frustrated that I have to spend the bulk of a day just doing chores. Dishes aren’t really a problem for me but everything else can be. There are so many other things I could be doing with my time- ha!

    1. It’s so interesting hearing from others, how some people struggle with one cleaning task but don’t have a problem with another, while someone else is the exact opposite. If only we could all converge our secrets so none of us would ever have to spend the bulk of a day off doing chores!

  10. I love this post!! I think it’s really important to remember why you started something (reading as a habit because you love to read or tidying your house because you’re a homebody). I almost think daily flossing is easier because it’s less of a reflection of your values and more something you know is good for you. This year, I’ve made it a point to read more novels and I’ve been really successful at it because I love the way it makes me feel. I think it’s really admirable that you’re always striving for self-improvement, even if it’s not visible to others.

    1. I love reading novels! They go by so much faster and once you’re in it’s hard to put them down!

      Interesting point about flossing! I never thought of it that way but now I do wonder if my detachment from it somehow makes it easier

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